Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reviews:: Catherine MacLellan Water in the Ground

Despite a few releases and multiple PR companies running with her sophomore album, Catherine MacLellan still remains one of the most understated and underappreciated talents on the East Coast scene. I know I’m not exactly a crucial cog when it comes to driving musical popularity, but the simple intimacy that MacLellan presents with her as pure as fresh snow voice makes it shocking that her songs aren’t a staple on at least one of the CBC iterations that work so hard to showcase Canadian talent.

Hopefully, Water in the Ground is the tipping point for her career. In the past, she relied on little more than her god given voice and the chords that resonated from her acoustic. Now, she pushes forward with jazzy, upbeat and catchy arrangements and a subtle energy that fits more in line with patios than those solitary evenings when the chill of the house is like an anchor. The news songs still showcase Catherine’s voice, but also some of the best folk talent we have to offer in the Great White North. Whether it’s a helping hand from James Phillips, some of Nathan Wiley theremin or a plucked bass-line from Kyle Cunjak (his work on Hotel Stairs is terrific), MacLellan is happy to play with bigger sounds.

Without question, Water in the Ground is a more spirited effort and finds MacLellan writing some remarkably catchy country/folk hooks (Take a Break or the sing-along ready Set This Heart On Fire), but even when she ventures into darker subject matter, like the beautiful Sorrows Drown or Something Gold, the sadness is balanced by harmonies, a quick picked mandolin or a gentle bass line. It's almost as if the songs all seem to have been given an extra breath of life and instead of another mopey collection of tear in your beer country anthems or folk sing-alongs, the record is a fun optimistic look at the simple world MacLellan loves.

Before long time fans get nervous, don’t think that these extra hands crowd the space or muddle the songs. I could write another paragraph or two but the definitive proof is the powerful album closer, Flowers on Your Grave. The song burns slowly and Catherine’s voice stands front and center. Without any support, the song could have been one of the gems of her previous efforts but harmonies, piano, and keep time drums thicken up the song and make the narrative that much more engaging. The subtle textures provide the support to let Catherine’s voice wander and the songs have the freedom to run.

So, if you are looking for a terrific voice from the East Coast, I'd ask you to give Catherine a chance. There isn't a bad song in the collection, which is remarkable considering the risks and change in sound Water in the Ground represents. Halifax readers, Catherine is playing a show @ The Carleton on Aug 12th and to help convince you to head out to say hello, here's the single from the record - Take a Break.

MP3:: Catherine MacLellan - Take a Break
MYSPACE:: http://myspace.com/catherinemaclellan
BUY:: http://www.catherinemaclellan.com/

Labels: , East Coast, ,

Posted at 8:25 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Evan B did sayeth:

"Take A Break" was getting some play on Radio 2 back when the album came out, hopefully it got her some deserved attention. All of her albums are fantastic, highly recommended.


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